BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER at Warner Theatre
What do you get when you mix together lively music, hilarious characters, stylized storytelling and murder? In A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER, which is currently playing at the Warner Theatre in Torrington, what you get is pure theatrical magic.
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER got its start here in Hartford, made the journey to Broadway (picking up a few Tony Awards along the way) and has now come full circle playing in Torrington at the Warner Theatre, in what has to be one of the first community theatre productions of the hilarious musical comedy by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak to be mounted. As I have experienced in pretty much every production I have seen at the Warner, GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE is finely polished, extremely well-produced, highly entertaining and simply magnificent.
For the uninitiated, A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER tells the tale of young Monty Navarro (Dan Porri) who, having recently lost his mother, learns that, unbeknownst to him, he is of noble blood and thus in the line of succession to become the Earl of Highhurst. The only problem is the D'Ysquith family, who disinherited his mother when she married for love, wants nothing to do with him. So, Monty, with newfound confidence and purpose, sets out to creatively remove (in other words, murder) the eight members of his family that stand between him and the Earldom. That may sound grisly, but in GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE the story is told in a light and fun manner, with a tuneful score, making audiences cheer for Monty as he offs one family member after another in increasingly hilarious ways. The other factor that makes GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE uniquely entertaining, is the fact that each of Monty's eight relatives is played by the same actor (Jonathan Jacobson) which is both impressive and laugh out loud funny to observe.
With a small cast of just 12 actors, A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is a tour de force for both the lead performers and the ensemble. Dan Porri gives a strong performance as Monty Navarro, who, in scene after hilarious scene juggles the various murders of his despicable family members as well as the romantic advances of his lover, Sibella (Sarah Giggar) and his cousin, Phoebe (Kate Lori). Speaking of Monty's loves, Ms. Giggar and Ms. Lori are both fantastic in their respective roles and show off truly magnificent voices in each of their numbers. They were a delight to listen to and delivered pitch perfect performances every time they were on stage. The real heavy lifting (figuratively, and in one scene, literally) is done by Jonathan Jacobson who plays all eight of the D'Ysquith family members that Monty seeks to get rid of. Each character Mr. Jacobson plays is different and hilarious in their own way, and often require the actor to change between them in seconds. He pulls this all off with the skill of a professional and is absolutely fantastic. The ensemble is also very strong, with a few standouts including Priscilla Squiers' performance as Miss Shingle. Overall, this is a thoroughly impressive cast that delivers top notch performances to the person.
Director/Choreographer Sharon Houk does a fantastic job telling this hilarious tale through her talented and hard-working cast. Her staging is creative and fun and her choreography works well for the style of the show. Ms. Houk's pacing is good, and she keeps things moving quickly through numerous scenes and songs. Dan Ringuette's music direction is excellent, and he leads a highly skilled orchestra of 12 who play Steven Lutvak's beautiful score perfectly. Stephen Houk's set design evokes a music hall stage which adds a touch of whimsy to the tale and allows for scene changes to happen seamlessly behind the curtain. The complex and numerous costumes by Renee Purdy, Thomas Gordon and Matthew Dettmer are beautifully rendered and, in some cases, such as Mr. Jacobson's various frocks, hilarious themselves. Finally, huge kudos go out to Christiane Morel Olsen, the dialect coach who was able to help each actor deliver very convincing British accents for every character.
Overall, Warner Stage Company's A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER is an extremely funny, entertaining and exciting night of theater. Audiences are sure to laugh, smile and cheer as they witness Monty navigate life, love, and murder in this highly-polished and exciting piece of musical theatre. Will Monty find love and get away with murder? You have to come out to the Warner to see for yourself. Trust me, you do not want to miss this one!
A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER runs at the Warner Theatre, 68 Main Street, Torrington, CT through February 10. To purchase tickets, call the Warner Box Office at 860-489-7180 or visit warnertheatre.org.
Photo credits: Warner Stage Company